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J Virol. 2008 Nov;82(21):10397-407. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00972-08. Epub 2008 Aug 13.

Detecting small changes and additional peptides in the canine parvovirus capsid structure.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Baker Institute for Animal Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA.


Parvovirus capsids are assembled from multiple forms of a single protein and are quite stable structurally. However, in order to infect cells, conformational plasticity of the capsid is required and this likely involves the exposure of structures that are buried within the structural models. The presence of functional asymmetry in the otherwise icosahedral capsid has also been proposed. Here we examined the protein composition of canine parvovirus capsids and evaluated their structural variation and permeability by protease sensitivity, spectrofluorometry, and negative staining electron microscopy. Additional protein forms identified included an apparent smaller variant of the virus protein 1 (VP1) and a small proportion of a cleaved form of VP2. Only a small percentage of the proteins in intact capsids were cleaved by any of the proteases tested. The capsid susceptibility to proteolysis varied with temperature but new cleavages were not revealed. No global change in the capsid structure was observed by analysis of Trp fluorescence when capsids were heated between 40 degrees C and 60 degrees C. However, increased polarity of empty capsids was indicated by bis-ANS binding, something not seen for DNA-containing capsids. Removal of calcium with EGTA or exposure to pHs as low as 5.0 had little effect on the structure, but at pH 4.0 changes were revealed by proteinase K digestion. Exposure of viral DNA to the external environment started above 50 degrees C. Some negative stains showed increased permeability of empty capsids at higher temperatures, but no effects were seen after EGTA treatment.

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